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    My Big Fat Greek Blog Post

    Wednesday, June 02, 2010

    Chances are you recognize in the title above a reference to the 2002 movie. (If not, definitely go rent My Big Fat Greek Wedding and watch it with someone you love.) What I'd like to point out here is that the adjectives in that title follow a particular order. You can't rearrange them: "Fat Blog Greek Big My Post," for example, just doesn't make any sense. "My Greek Fat Big Blog Post" comes closer, but it still doesn't feel right to native English speakers.

    Order of adjectives isn't something we study in school. It isn't even a common topic among grammarians. Instead, it's something native speakers learn by immersion - just absorbing it into our brains throughout childhood - and so come to use without any conscious thought. Imagine having to recall opinion, size, age, shape, color, origin, material, purpose every time you wanted to use more than one adjective.

    I'm reminded of the story of the ant and the centipede. The ant asked, "How do you keep track of all those legs?" The centipede considered for a moment, tripped over its own feet, and fell into a ditch.

    What does this order-of-adjectives lesson have to teach us about writing? It reminds us that language is primarily a natural, unconscious activity. It is about communication. Focusing on grammar and other mechanics too early in the process can trip us up, make us feel foolish, and stifle our expression.

    So write something, and let yourself enjoy it. You can always ask an ant to proofread later.

    - Lester Smith

    Photo by Andrew